Hi everyone. Rob here.
One of my favourite Christmas carols is “Joy to the World.” Among it’s plethora of wonderful words and themes is this little gem in verse 1:
Let every heart prepare him room
This is the big challenge of the Advent season: how do we make room in our hearts for Jesus when there are so many other demands coming our way? Here in New Zealand we’re not just preparing for Christmas, but also for our summer holidays. As businesses go into shutdown mode for a while the demands to “get it done before Christmas” is immense. Our schools have all their end of year functions as well as many of our church ministries. At the same time you’re wanting Christmas to be a special time with family and it can feel like it’s up to you to make that happen. Making room in our hearts for Jesus often feels like the last thing we’re doing, not the first.
What I suggest is that making room for Jesus isn’t another thing to do. but a posture and mindset to adopt as we do everything else. In Luke 10 we see the story of Martha and Mary as they welcome Jesus into their home. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet “listening to what he said” and Martha “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Martha got mad at Mary for not helping but Jesus said this to her:
Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41-42).
Martha wasn’t doing a bad thing, but she wasn’t doing the best thing according to Jesus. Mary acted in a way that was very counter-cultural. Women weren’t meant to sit at the feet of the rabbi. That would imply that they too would become teachers. Martha’s cry was for Mary to do what she was meant to be doing. That is, help me in the kitchen! Our world tells us to be busy at Christmas. Buy great presents, attend every function, get the decorations up, prepare beautiful meals, be gracious to all and don’t offend anyone through your absence. Keeping everyone and the world happy is an unsustainable goal, especially in December! How do we become more like Mary than Martha then, when the world is screaming at us to be like Martha?
It all starts at Jesus’ feet. Very few of us have hours to sit in contemplative prayer but we do have opportunities throughout the day to go to that place and sit with Jesus, even for a few minutes. It’s good to start the day there and bring the day’s agenda to Jesus and allow him to gaze at it, change it, resource you for it and most of all, show you what is his gift to you in it. Many of these end-of-year functions are gift. They honour people that have blessed us throughout the year. They celebrate journey’s of learning and growing together. If we shift from performing a duty to receiving a gift we create room in our hearts for Christ’s love to fill us for the sake of others.
Not everything in this season is gift however. The crass commercialism is jarring in the face of a story that culminates with a birth in a manger. Some events do little for our souls. Sometimes we take on too much, say yes to too many things and perform tasks that simply aren’t ours to take on. So ask yourself before each new thing; “am I making room in my heart for Jesus by doing this?” That, after all, is the goal of advent. By the time Christmas comes the goal is to love Jesus more, to adore him and for his love to flow through us to others. May we do what it takes for that to happen. For some, that’s shopping less. For others, it’s watching what they eat and keeping up exercise routines. For others it’s carving out quiet space to sit at Jesus’ feet. Whatever it may be, may your heart become roomy and spacious so that Jesus can make himself right at home there.
Grace and peace everyone.